A Look Back at the 2008 Legislative Session, A Look Ahead at 2009

Published Apr. 1, 2008

There were some good bills that passed last session, and some that will be back. SB 6760, a bill designed to add excess property from all Residential Habilitation Centers (RHCs) to the DD Community Trust Account (known as the Dan Thompson Memorial Trust), passed without Fircrest included. The Trust provides funding for employment services and Individual and Family Services for the unserved. The bill still added excess property from two more RHCs to the trust, so four of the five RHCs are now included. Funding was in the budget for Phase 2 of the Fircrest Master Plan and will hopefully help settle concerns so that Fircrest excess property can also be added to the trust.

HB 2903 created an access coordinator position in the courts to assist people with disabilities. SB 6743 required the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to update their autism manual for educators and include guidelines for parents and teachers to use when addressing the unique needs of autism. It also directs OSPI to submit training guidelines for teachers on autism by December 2008. Though funding was provided in OSPI’s budget for printing of the autism guidebook created by the Autism Task Force, access to the funding has been slow.

SB 6448 would have created a program in state statute for intensive behavior support needs of children with severe behavioral issues in-home as opposed to out-of-home placement. Though the bill did not pass, the final budget provided funding for the program. The Intensive In-home Behavior Supports program was created as a proviso in the budget with 6 FTEs (Full Time Employees) for the program, a tremendous success, as new programs are not often funded in supplemental budgets.

Other DD budget successes include funding for a few new trusts in the DD Endowment Trust Fund (or Life Opportunities Trust) and employment services for 31 waiver high school graduates and 50 non-waiver grads. The NW Autism Center also received funding to expand diagnostic services for autism and to train teachers on autism.

The legislature directed DSHS and the counties to look at the uneven funding process for birth to three services and decide how to best address the need and to work with counties to establish a consistent policy for DD clients who receive employment services.

Self Advocates In Leadership (SAIL) focused their energy on creating October as Disability History Month in schools (SB 6313). Their efforts were very successful and though no funding was attached, they are working on plans to provide school districts with speakers and information at little or no cost.

2008 was an election year; all Representatives and half of the Senators were up for re-election as well as the Governor. With new legislators we have for next session we will need to provide information to them so that they can make informed decisions about our issues.

The Olympia Insider is updated weekly during legislative session and is uploaded to the web site as well as sent by email. The Arc of Washington also has an E-list which provides you with news articles and pertinent information related to developmental disability issues. If you would like to be added to the E-list send an email to Diana@arcwa.org.

The Arc of Washington has an “Advocacy” section on the web site where you can learn about the issues through easy-to-understand one-pagers as well as easily send emails to your legislators. There is an Action E-list you can sign up for that provides you with a Call to Action by email during the legislative session, complete with talking points you can use and/or add your own message to. This provides a quick and easy way for your voice to be heard. Remember, change is made by those who show up, whether in person, by phone or by email!